Any speculation surrounding the possibility of a Mini crossover can be put to rest. The official word from the company is that the Mini Crossover Concept, which debuts at next month's Paris motor show, is a preview of forthcoming product.
We imagine it's a preview of the crossover much as the Traveler concepts, shown at auto shows throughout 2006 and 2007, hinted at the then-forthcoming Mini Clubman. To some extent, the Crossover Concept looks almost identical to the Traveler, save for a taller stance and some new gimmicks with its doors.
Much like the Ford Explorer America concept shown at the 2008 Detroit auto show, the Crossover Concept uses two types of rear doors. The right hand side sports a hinged rear door, while its counterpart on the left is a sliding-type affair. Designers also moved away from the retro feel (and blind spot) of the Clubman's split-door hatch, placing a one-piece swing-away tailgate at the rear.
Where the Crossover Concept really feels like a concept is inside, where the dashboard is dominated by a glowing sphere that doubles as instrumentation and navigation. Its entire surface is touch-sensitive, and can also be controlled by trackballs installed on the center console and the steering wheel.
Other conceptual quirks include the "Mini Center Rail," which splits the interior longitudinally between both sets of bucket seats. Designers envision the rail as a mounting point for various accessories, including armrests, consoles, and entertainment systems. For kicks, the Crossover Concept displays a custom-made set of china that can be stored within the Center Rail.
Those features may be flights of fancy, but don't expect something too dissimilar from the Crossover Concept come 2010, when Mini's expected to unveil a "cute-ute" that's ready for production.